MK Gallery (Milton Keynes, UK): The Lie of the Land
While preparing material for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner referred several times to the work of Jan (Hans) Vredeman de Vries (1527–circa 1606), a Dutch painter and architectural designer who published a number of books with inventive illustrations of buildings in perspective. His two-part treatise Perspective (1604–5) had far-reaching impact on northern European artists interested in perspectival painting. Turner’s lecture text and diagram are based in part on John Joshua Kirby’s Dr Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made Easy, both in Theory and in Practice (1768, II, pl.XIX, fig.4).1 Turner owned a copy of this book, which passed to him from his friend Henry Scott Trimmer, a descendant of Kirby (private collection).
After 1817, while revising his survey of historical formulae, Turner produced a new diagram demonstrating another of Vredeman de Vries’s methods (Tate D16978; Turner Bequest CXCV 9).2 A further sketch of a diagram sourced by Turner to Vredeman de Vries is in the Windmill and Lock sketchbook (Tate D07981; Turner Bequest CXIV 14 verso), but Maurice Davies points out that it is in fact ‘a copy of Kirby’s diagram illustrating a method attributed to [Jean] Dubreuil ... (1765, II, pl.XIX, fig.5); a method Turner does not discuss’.3 Turner also copied a passage and plate from Vredeman de Vries into his Frittlewell sketchbook (Tate D07835; Turner Bequest CXII 77 verso).
For a diagram of Dubreuil’s method, see Tate D16983 (Turner Bequest CXCV 14).
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folio 3 verso and M folios 3 verso–5.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 AA folios 11 verso–12.
Davies 1994, p.97.
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Double Elephant size Whatman paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent. The largest group within the perspective drawings, this batch of paper shows a ‘grid-like series of shadows that can be seen within the sheet in transmitted light. This appears to have been caused by a trial method of supporting the woven wire mould cover on the mould’. Because this is the only batch he has seen with such a feature, Bower believes that ‘it may have been tried on one pair of moulds and for some reason never tried again’. He also writes that it is ‘not the best Whatman paper by any means; the weight of this group is also very variable and the moulds have not been kept clean during use’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
- symbols & personifications(7,266)
- emotions, concepts and ideas(16,625)